For Shane Lowry, the Open Championship at Royal Portrush this past summer brought memories that will never be forgotten, even if he may only have a hazy recall about some of the subsequent celebrations. With the Open being held in Ireland for only the second occasion ever, returning to Portrush for the first time since 1951, it could not have been more fitting that the champion golfer of the year (by a handsome six shots from Tommy Fleetwood) hailed from the Emerald Isle.
Perhaps the only way in which the story could have been improved from a romantic perspective would have been if the winner had come from Northern Ireland, where Portrush is located, which takes us from the good (Lowry) to the bad (Rory McIlroy).
On the opening hole of his opening round, the pre-tournament favourite hit a snap-hook off the tee. It went out-of-bounds, in part courtesy of a ricochet off a spectator’s mobile phone. McIlroy’s ‘three off the tee’ was only an improvement in that he could (just) play the ball. Another swipe was followed by a penalty shot; one more hack and two putts later he had his personal abominable snowman: an eight. The rest of his round was pretty poor and his fabulous fireworks on the Friday were not sufficient to enable him to make the cut.
Congratulations to @ShaneLowryGolf on winning the 2019 @AGWgolfwriters Golfer of the Year last night! 🇮🇪— The Open (@TheOpen) December 16, 2019
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David Duval, the champion at Royal Lytham & St Annes in 2001, was another former winner to fail to make it through to the weekend. He delayed his first-round implosion a little longer than McIlroy, waiting until the 7th to run up a score of 14. At almost 600 yards it’s not an easy par-five but, still, to lose two balls off the tee and later play a wrong one does seem to have been over-egging it. Elsewhere Duval threw in a couple of triple-bogeys and a quadruple, all of which added up to a 91 (20 over par).
While McIlroy and Duval were undoubtedly errant with some of their play and duly paid the penalty, Kyle Stanley finished in a tie for 41st despite causing a greater threat to the paying public. Twice in the same round he hit spectators, which of course can happen, but what didn’t endear him to his playing partner, Robert MacIntyre, was that in both instances he didn’t yell “Fore!” Stanley protested that there were plenty of people around him doing just that, but MacIntyre wasn’t impressed. “There were harsh words spoken,” he said. “It wasn’t too pleasant but you’ve got to tell him it’s not right. You know from the word go that it’s going into the crowd. Just shout!”
Many have shouted in vain about the glacial (non) pace of play of the dawdling J.B. Holmes. Nevertheless, in his own sweet time he had got to 10 under par after three rounds and went into the final day six shots behind the leader, Lowry. Victory was not out of the question. It pretty soon was, however. Holmes subsided with an 87 to plunge all the way down the leaderboard into a tie for 67th. Well, I say ‘plunge’: it would have seemed a little less urgent than that.
Happy Christmas and may all your rounds in 2020 be faster and better!
You can follow Robert Green on Twitter @robrtgreen and enjoy his other blog f-factors.com plus you can read more by him on golf at robertgreengolf.com